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Growing Up in “The Flowers” by Alice Walker
In the story’s initial many paragraphs Walker introduces Myop and the scene as blissful and serene. “[Myop] skipped lightly…the days had never been as beautiful as these…worked out the beat of a song…she felt light and great in the warm sun.” Then, in the third paragraph, Walker starts to insert very subtle hints about what is to follow. For instance, “Myop watched the tiny white bubbles disrupt the thin black scale of soil and the water that silently rose and slid away down the stream” is really an allusion to the relation in between white and black men and women. Myop, however, is certainly unaware of any higher symbolic significance she is basically enjoying a day outdoors, observing soil and water and selecting flowers that also represent her purity and innocence.
The fifth paragraph is truly the beginning of Myop’s transition to adulthood. Walker indicates this ‘beginning’ by stating the time: ‘By twelve o’clock, her arms laden with sprigs…she was a mile or a lot more away from home’. Citing this particular time is Walker’s subtle way of indicating transition – morning to evening, light to dark. Not wanting to leave, Myop ‘circles back to the home, back to the peacefulness of the morning’ – but it is then that she actions ‘smack into his eyes’, indicating that sudden transition of understanding, which comes in an instant whether or not you wish it so and adjustments your life forever.
This key image of the story comes at its climax when Myop, choosing a pink rose for her bundle of flowers, notices the noose with which the dead man was hanged. She subsequently realizes how this grotesque and brutal death relates to her really personal heritage and ‘out of respect’ goes on to lay down the flowers she had picked. Initially representing her childhood innocence, the flowers – upon getting laid down – represent her transition from childhood to adulthood. By leaving them, Myop seems to have realized that the planet is not as blissful and flowery as it seemed only moments just before.
“The Flowers,” though quick and seemingly straightforward, is a powerful depiction of how events well beyond a child’s control can confront her out of nowhere and modify her utterly. Confronting not only murder but lynching, a crime Myop knew targeted “people like her,” forced Myop to grow up quickly in a way that men and women who reside with out worry of racism may well not. Walker’s coming of age story is all the much more powerful – and critical – due to the fact of its social and historical relevance.
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